LEVITTOWN, Pa. — Gallagher Tire Inc. is marking its 50th year as a family-owned business that has thrived as a specialty tire wholesaler after getting its start as a retail tire store.
"We're very excited and pleased to obviously still be in business with all the crazy things that have gone on over these 50 years," said J.P. Gallagher, the second generation in his family to run the business and the third generation involved in the tire industry.
His grandfather, Jack Gallagher, was a sales representative for Dayton Tire, and he encouraged his two sons, Jack and Robert, to open a retail tire store "knowing he would have a good customer, and they would have the right pricing. That's really how Gallagher Tire started," the younger Mr. Gallagher said.
Gallagher Tire opened in 1968 in a two-bay garage in Bristol, Pa., initially selling passenger tires, particularly the original Armstrong brand, to the local community.
J.P. Gallagher doesn't recall what prompted the transition to specialty wholesale tires in the early 1980s, when he was a child. The company, run by his late father Jack, began selling backhoe and skid-steer tires, eventually abandoned the Bristol location and three service stations in northeast Philadelphia and moving its headquarters in Levittown.
He said that was probably the biggest challenge the company faced — shifting away from consumer tires while trying to generate the sales volumes necessary to sustain the business. "That was tough for my dad for a while," he said.
Today the distributor operates three warehouses, in Levittown and Harrisburg, Pa., and Liverpool, N.Y., to distribute to customers along the East Coast and into the Midwest.
In 1996 J.P. Gallagher joined the business and took over running the business in 2003 when his father semi-retired.
"The biggest accomplishment has really been being able to continue the relationships that my father started 50 years ago. We have customers we've been dealing with for 40-plus years," Mr. Gallagher said.
"That, to me, has been special, that we've been able to maintain the relationships and also grow our business and develop new ones and retain many employees for decades. We're a small company, as far as headcount goes, where we have under 50 employees, but I have multiple employees that have been with us for 20-plus years."
Those relationships paid off when the company's tire warehouse in Bristol burned down in 1980 in an arson-related fire.
"We were borrowing inventory, borrowing warehouse space and just doing whatever we needed to do to keep the business going," he said.
Today, the wholesaler focuses on providing a large variety of product.